Q. Please describe your function at Glico.
TK: Glico has two R&D departments - the Research department that deals with everything from basic to applied research, and the Development department that develops products together with Glico’s marketing department based on research results in order to bring them into production. I am involved in optimizing all R&D departments as the director of the Research Division.
Since Glico’s basic research is focusing on what kind of business can be achieved through what kind of products, it differs significantly from that conducted by universities and public research organizations. Intellectually, however, the resulting research papers produced by members of the Glico R&D researchers are often published in peer-reviewed international journals. They are, in fact, of such high quality that they are often referenced and quoted by other scientists all around the world.
I am quite pleased not only that our scientific endeavors are so limitless that the future holds ever-greater possibilities, but also that Glico’s research departments are put to practical use for in the development of products and businesses.
Q. It has been reported that there are many of the new functional materials independently developed by Glico - including POs-Ca™, BifiX®, and Paprika Xanthophyll - are incorporated into its products.
TK: That’s right. Originally, there was a research laboratories that aimed to create new business possibilities with materials science and new functional materials. In fact, I went as far as too say Glico is a company that (among others) “also” sells foods. I still think like this and can say the resulting materials of our research contribute to the creation of new business fields and some of which have become new products in traditional business fields.
Q. What about health science and taste science?
TK: Our focus in the field of health science includes developing approaches to improve both the intestinal and oral environments. Based on the scientific evidence, we put importance on how to prevent any and all negative physical effects and to promote health rather than simply developing products that may seem to be good for the body. Whereas many researchers are basically dedicated to the discovery of that which is new, at Glico the emphasis is on being able to offer that which positively contributes to health.
At the same time Glico products need to be delicious. Products that are not delicious do not please anyone. Therefore, another factor to consider is that healthy, good tasting food products are able to connect people. With that in mind, taste science research considers the enhancement of taste to be a vital contribution to physical and mental health.
Q. In other words, there lays a lot of scientific research behind the development of new food products.
TK: Yes, we are also involved in production technology. Working in-depth with the marketing department is also essential. It is necessary for us to seek customer evaluations and act on the results in order to offer the finest and tastiest products possible.
As for production, Glico’s unique creations require unique production technology. “Ice no Mi” , for example, involves specially developed production line to make the individual pieces round. Specially developed technology and equipment are also required to insert the cream filling into “Bisco” . Therefore, our research division is not only responsible for R&D, but also for production technology and marketing.
Q. If it is possible for Glico to fully utilize Open Innovation, why is it necessary to have a Research Department?
TK: That is because, we have a social mission to solve the world’s fundamental health issues. Glico believes that, as a manufacturer, it is our duty to deliver products and product components that are delicious and contribute to people’s health, and that we should not be satisfied if something simply works out as a business. And in order to continue on doing so, basic research is essential.
It is, of course, our intention to never betray the trust of customers that what they purchase is not only tasty, but also good for health. Therefore, we constantly strive to provide the finest products and product components possible. That means using only the best materials available even if not developed by Glico. If the materials developed by other companies are better, we don’t hesitate to use them.
Glico cannot, however, manage its business simply through using other people’s open innovation concept. Through our own R&D efforts we acquire the ability to understand and apply new functions and technologies based on science to fulfill our social mission.
Q. In other words, it is essential for Glico research to pursue pertinent high-level scientific knowledge in order to adequately judge external science and technology. What is your role in accomplishing this?
TK: To fulfill a social mission, a company performs at its best when everyone works hand-in-hand to coordinate their efforts - not only looking to the future, but also by actively trying to grasp what is going on outside the company.
For R&D activities to move forward ever more effectively, I believe a scientifically based-point of view is essential when actively examining present circumstances and future possibilities in order to perceive not only emerging factors related to science and technology, but also the possible occurrence of obstacles that need to be overcome. Towards accomplishing this, it is my belief that R&D personnel grasp new possibilities as a result of interacting with people out in the field - both close and far.
In the process of recruiting staff to work alongside current Glico R&D researchers, whether or not an applicant has previous specialized experience is not a primary consideration. Academically, all that is necessary is a basic knowledge of food science and /or biochemistry. Building on that, we look for a logical thinking ability along with passion for the job.